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back to article Euro boffins plan supercomputer to SIMULATE HUMAN BRAIN

The European Commission has selected the Human Brain Project (HBP) as one of its Future and Emerging Technologies and will send it up to €1.19b over ten years so it can build a supercomputer capable of simulating the human brain. The HBP wants to build a simulated brain because we don't know enough about our grey matter. The …

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Silver badge

Pffft.

Bah humbug.

For ages, people have been screaming that computers will take over our jobs.

Then everyone else will be replaced by computers.

Then we'll be wearing computers.

Then computers will know everything about us.

Pffft.

No wait...

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Thumb Down

US influence

I.E. 'Not Invented Here' syndrome at work apparently - http://www.artificialbrains.com/spinnaker

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Anonymous Coward

Re: US influence

And? Everything we invent is invented by the Mercuns. That way we get to pay 'em royalties & homage thus propping up "the world's indefensible indispensable nation." Didn't you get the memo?

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Terminator

Oh dear

And so it begins...

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FAIL

Re: Oh dear

The more computers copy us the more worthless they will become. Why not try to make a car based on our legs.

But getting the money is not stupid, of course.

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Mushroom

Re: Oh dear

Exactly my point... so the more like our own brains we make a computer, the more stupid/unpredictable/unreliable/jealous/paranoid/warmongering it'll become. Awesome. All they need to do is plug that thing into the interwebs and...

Remind me to stop at the supermarket on my way home for a roll of tinfoil ;o)

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Terminator

Re: Oh dear

did the boffin who thought this up start off as a fiz-pop-bang rush of arcing electricity down a dark alley somewhere then?

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Anonymous Coward

Sounds easy to me.

Take €1.19b of taxpayers money.

Stick said money in a high interest account for 9 years.

Spend the 9 years writing code that you know will need more computing power than you can afford at 2013 prices, even with 1.19 billion in the bank.

9 years later.

Buy a few of the latest CPUs or graphics cards for a few hundred euros each, which thanks to Moores law will now give you more processing power than you could have imagined in 2013, and will be able to run your brain simulator with ease.

Buy a medium sized Caribbean island and retire there with the remainder of the cash.

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Re: Sounds easy to me.

Please let me know when you find a high-interest bank account...

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SpiNNaker and HBP

Paul Turner has kindly pointed out similarities between SpiNNaker and the HBP proposal. This is no accident: Steve Furber and I have had considerable input into HBP, and we are major partners in this project.

As far as we are concerned, we gain immeasurably from access to interested Neuroscientists and the other skills we do not have. For example Seth Grant (Edinburgh/Cambridge/Sanger Institute) is one of the foremost scientists in the field of genetics and neuroscience. Stanislas Dehaene is a great Cognitive Scientist.

The difficulty with multi-disciplinary research projects is finding people willing to cooperate and willing to invest the time to understand the new languages used to describe other fields of science. For example, integrating the SpiNNaker chip into robotics is not something many mainstream roboticists wish to undertake, and with good reason. With most robots one would want to be sure about what it will do, for safety reasons if no others; this is not an option if the device's behaviour changes as it learns.

Steve and I have already invested time and effort talking to the "neurorobotic" part of the project: Alois Knoll and the rest of his team in Munich (there's a SpiNNaker board there already linked to one of their robots), Murray Shannahan at Imperial and others.

We also need the biological insights that will come from the neuroscience part of the project led by Henry Markram at EPFL Lausanne. Without this, we will struggle to make our work "biologically relevant".

Of course, there is also the Graphene research that won the other €1 billion prize; they're celebrating on the floor below me!

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Re: SpiNNaker and HBP

Thanks for that explanation David. I was worried that politics was causing inefficient duplication and rivalry, but I am delighted that that is not the case.

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Childcatcher

Ethics of killing a computer...

I wonder if anyone has thought about the ethical considerations. Imagine they build this computer, and it does have cognition. Is it then murder when you turn it off?

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Re: Ethics of killing a computer...

I think murder is a legal term and is only (for now) applicable to humans.

Also, depends on whether you can save the memory and state of the computer before turning it off - if you can, and if you can restore them later if you turn it back on you can say that you only put it to sleep temporarily...

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Re: Ethics of killing a computer...

Killing a thinking, feeling being without just cause is wrong - and if the laws discriminate against electronic brains, so much the worse for the man-made governments that would think to violate the eternal laws of God!

However, a previous brain simulation attempt involved only simulating the merest fraction of the brain; we may not be close to the point at which ethical considerations actually apply.

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Anonymous Coward

Wrong target?

Shouldn't we work on helping humans to think properly before blowing €1.19bn on a thinking computer?

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FAIL

Re: Wrong target?

Hell, let's not bother with that technology and innovation crap at all, apart from farming, crop rotation, desert growing corn, aquaducts, medicine, law and order what good has technology ever done us?

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Facepalm

Re: Wrong target?

You're right. It''s much easier to dissect a living human brain, examine small parts of it, change chemical its balance and so on, all while doing zero damage and not affecting it with sedatives and pain killers.

With in a decade we should be able to simulate whole sections of an individual's brain, and help find the best treatment for that person.

In 2 decades a whole brain could be simulated, and yes the question of whether the simulation has its own consciousness and related the moral and legal rights.

In 3 to 4 decades we could be looking at the very real possibility of digital immortality.

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Re: Wrong target?

Indeed, digital immortality is a wonderful hope that we should be working towards.

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They are biting off more than they could sensibly chew. They should try simulating something a little more simple first, like a cup of tea.

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Devil

or a chartered accountant

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I wouldn't want that automated. Presently, it's fun to charter an accountant

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Pirate

and sail the wide accountant sea!

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FAIL

I could get a pair of shoes...

...to do a better job than some of my colleagues.

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Trollface

It seems a lot of money...

..when quite frankly most peoples brains could be adequately simulated on an 8 bit microcontroller..

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I agree, why not start with something simple say a Call centre drone, then a beancounter and work there way up.

Something about walk before they can run.

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Anonymous Coward

Enabling technology

Perhaps they should first solve the problem of how to build computers that use photons instead of electrons.

Once they have solved that problem, they can then make them large enough to simulate brain activity without generating ridiculous amounts of heat, and costing a fortune in electricity to run.

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Alien

They can use my computer if they like.

Serious question: could distributed computing (like SETI@home) work for this?

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Could it teach us, or make better ones?

Just because your conciousness runs on a super-computer doesn't make you smarter.

It might turn out like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barney_Gumble (Barney Gumble) and ask for a beer.

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Anonymous Coward

The Trick

Of course is to make the project worth the investment. At over a thousand million euros you want some solid results. Just not enough information from a canned press release. The devil, as always is in the detail.

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